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Florida lawmakers look to embrace federal immigration rules

There is no question that immigration continues to be a major point of contention in domestic politics across the United States. Florida's position in the southeast of the country, growing economy and warm climate make it a popular destination for immigrants from many locations. Even those who come to the country through other points of entry may eventually find themselves in the Sunshine State.

Some of these people will come to the country without appropriate documentation. They may hope that by working hard and avoiding legal trouble, they can give themselves or their families a better life. However, they may have to take drastic actions so that they can avoid legal conflicts and the potential for deportation.

For some families, the need to avoid conflict can mean avoiding medical care or any form of interaction with law enforcement. Now, Florida State lawmakers have passed a bill that will end the ability of local municipalities to have laws or policies that classify them as sanctuary cities.

Law enforcement may soon have to request citizenship documentation from everyone

One of the ways that sanctuary cities work is that they promise basic services and access to anyone who lives there, regardless of their immigration status. That means that someone without documentation can call law enforcement if they become the victim of a crime. It also means that they can seek medical care at hospitals without fear of immigration enforcement officials showing up.

City policies that require court documents or criminal charges help protect immigrant communities by ensuring they can send their kids to school and get help for safety and medical issues. Currently, only Alachua, Florida, has a rule that protects immigrants, and it's likely going to change with the passage of Florida SB 168.

If the governor signs SB 168, the state can mandate that all Florida law enforcement officers comply with federal standards for immigration. That includes verifying the immigration status of every individual they come into contact with, even if it's for minor issues or for someone who has been the victim of a crime.

In other words, those seeking help after being the victim of a crime or even those involved in an accident caused by someone else could find themselves arrested for immigration enforcement reasons.

Those facing deportation still have legal rights

Even if Florida enacts SB 168, immigrants of every legal status still have rights in the United States and Florida. That includes the right to a defense prior to deportation, as well as the right to seek asylum and other protections, such as U visas for those who are victims of certain crimes.

If you or your loved ones have to deal with issues related to your immigration status in the United States, sitting down with an experienced attorney could help you make more informed decisions.

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